BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho legislators backed new rules that could give environmental groups a better shot at competing for state land leases against ranchers.

For years, environmentalists have fought Idaho after losing out on leases, despite bidding more money than the ranchers.

On Wednesday, House and Senate resource committees approved the new package, which was drawn up by the Idaho Land Board last year but needed legislative backing to be made permanent.

The Idaho Cattle Association initially objected to the rules, which contain provisions for conservation, recreation and even communication-site leases, in addition to those for traditional grazing or cropland.

But the group agreed to them, after demanding several changes.

These rules were part of a federal court settlement in November, in which a Seattle environmentalist who was denied leases in 2006 agreed not to refile his lawsuit if new rules were adopted.

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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